NRA may fail to complete its work: Letsoela

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Bereng Mpaki

THE National Reforms Authority (NRA) may fail to complete its work by the end of its term on 30 April 2022 due to tight deadlines, chairperson Pelele Letsoela has said.

The authority has until 30 April to complete its work.

Mr Letsoela said this during a three-day high-level forum to reflect on the progress of the reforms.

The constitutional, security sector, media, judicial and governance reforms were recommended by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in 2016. They were expected to have been implemented by May 2019, but that deadline was missed due to the bickering between the then government and opposition.

A June 2021 deadline was set but was later moved to September 2021 due to delays caused by Covid-19 lockdowns. It was further moved to April 2022 for similar reasons.

Addressing an NRA high-level forum this week, Mr Letsoela said their deadlines were too tight and could therefore deter the Authority from completing its work.

The three-day forum, which started on Monday, was meant to reflect on the on-going national reforms, to give feedback on the reforms implementation progress, and to map the way forward.

The forum was attended by Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro, Justice and Law minister Advocate Lekhetho Rakuoane, political leaders, civil society and church leaders among others.

“I wish to remind you, that while the reforms are a process and not an event, the tenure of office of the NRA comes to an end on 30 April 2022 in terms of its founding legislation,” Mr Letsoela said.

“Much as I am content with the contribution which we have made to our country’s emancipation, we are concerned that unrealistically tight timelines will not allow us to see through what we started.

“Lest I be misunderstood, let me hasten to underline that the NRA cannot continue forever. There should be a stage where it hands over to a body that will carry on with the work of the reforms forward. The critical question that we must all answer with sincerity and with a sense of patriotism is, when is the right moment for that eventuality?”

So far, the NRA has developed 90 constitutional amendments, but more work still needs to be done, he said.

“Top in our worries is the realisation that inevitably, we will not be able to develop the 77 pieces of the enabling legislation which will make the constitutional amendments implementable.”

He said they were also worried that the NRA’s constitutional proposals would be discussed by parliament after the demise of the authority, which would deny parliament a chance to consult with the Authority.

Among its outstanding tasks, the NRA must also come up with the framework for the Transitional Justice Commission (TJC). The TJC is, among others, expected to defer high-profile trials of politicians and any other politically motivated trials until after the full implementation of the reforms for purposes of national unity and reconciliation.

And Mr Letsoela said the NRA was yet to deliver the architecture for the TJC as it was a “long-term and complex project”.

“Needless to mention that NRA had already courageously broken ice on this extremely sensitive subject, and had successfully turned the first corner in the form of a fruitful forum, as highlighted in the earlier part of my remarks. Sadly, the odds are stacked high against the peace architecture; the chances are that it is also going to suffer similar time-related fate.

“It is my fervent hope that, as the NRA’s key stakeholders, when you deliberate on the future of the National Reforms beyond 30 April 2022, you will also reflect on the information that I have just disclosed to you,” Mr Letsoela said.

On his part, Dr Majoro welcomed the progress made by the NRA to date.

“It is with pride that today, as we take a moment to reflect on our reforms journey, we do so on the backdrop of almost 90 constitutional amendments submitted to the government by the NRA, styled as the 11th Amendment to the Constitution. These laudable strides did not come easily. The NRA had remained resolute in the face of adversity occasioned by several factors including Covid-19.

“We have requested the NRA to prepare a work plan on critical reforms work that needs to be undertaken before the upcoming elections. This work plan will inform the government and stakeholders’ decisions on how to proceed with the process post 30 April 2022 when the life of the NRA comes to an end,” Dr Majoro said.

He said the government was committed to ensuring that the process continues in a sustainable, transparent and inclusive manner, as doing otherwise will erode all the good work done so far.

Dr Majoro said there will also be a need to draft subsidiary legislation, create institutions to provide checks and balances and separation of powers that were previously absent in the current governing framework.

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